A hiss from a snake is a sound you will always remember, and there is good reason.
A snake that hisses is not a good sign whether it is a captive animal or wild.
The hiss is a pre-warning before striking, if a snake has enough time to spot an incoming predator or threat, a snake will go into a tight S shaped and let out a loud hiss.
In doing so, this is a warning like a grumble of a lion. A snake’s hiss will always mean you stay away as I am not food and pose a threat to you.
Different species of snake hiss when provoked, cobras hissing will stand tall to make themselves seem bigger than they are. This seemingly makes them more difficult as a prey item as when they are on the ground flat.
Where does the snake hiss come from?
The hissing noise comes from an organ, this is called the “Glottis”.
The glottis where a snake breathes from, which they do not hiss when unalarmed. But when provoked a snake will increase the breathing rate forcing more air through.
Also, whilst do this the snake will adjust how their glottis to create a hissing sound, also identical to a human when whistling, though the whistle comes from the windpipe rather than the lips of a human.
Why does a snake need to hiss?
As previously mentioned a snake hiss is a pre-warning not to come closer to them.
In the wild, snakes for the most part and not an apex predator, therefore, are vulnerable to other animals looking for a snack.
A loud noise will startle some incoming predators, as an owner of snakes we can say when our boa constrictor hisses, you feel a sense immediately that my snake does not want to be bothered.
Another reason for this is during the shedding cycle, a snake’s eyes become cloudy blue.
Because of this, their vision is distorted which makes them react in a less usual way than they ordinary would.
If you have a snake that is in the process of a shed cycle and they hiss at you, you are better to leave them alone until they finish. Otherwise you could make the snake see hissing as a way of stopping handling.
Do snakes hiss to each other?
No, snakes are solitary animals, from birth a snake is on its own, fending for themselves and only interacting with other snakes during the breeding season.
In movies snakes hiss to each other but this is completely fictional and is not a form of communication for any snake species.
What types of snake are known for hissing?
Not all snakes will hiss, snakes such as the carpet python is a prime example, we have are yet to hear one of these snakes use vocal sounds to warn you off.
Snakes that hiss:
- Reticulated python
- Ball Python
- Boa Constrictor
- Corn snakes (Very rarely)
- African Rock Python
- Black mamba
The list continues, 100% are capable of hissing but do not resort to this as a viable option before striking or evading conflict.
Why you pet snake is hissing at you
This is often asked by new keepers; we find it is when they move up to the more advanced snakes that are kept in captivity.
Hissing does cause stress for a pet snake; it is worried that you’re going to harm them.
80% of all pet snakes calm down in time and with consistent handling routines but there are some that simply cannot be relaxed into tolerating handling.
The best advice is to start small and use our handling guide to get the best chances of stopping your snake from hissing and going into a defensive mode.
Another reason for the hissing could be cage aggression, some species of snake are renown for being a real pain to get out of the housing space but once taken out are absolutely fine and tolerate it once removed.
IF this is the case, get a thick handling glove and take the snake out, remove the glove. This will stop the fear of a strike from you and allow the snake to be taken out its vivarium.